Fuji’s Natural Live View and Exposing to the Right

  • Jan 18, 2020

TL;DR

Turn on Fuji’s Natural Live View when Exposing to the Right (ETTR). If you do, in-camera exposure tools will closer resemble the raw output.

The problem with ETTR #

The hardest part of Exposing to the Right (ETTR) is judging the exposure in camera. Exposure tools like the histogram show you the JPG interpretation of the raw data. This means you are seeing the effects of in-camera processing. For example, white balance, shadow/highlight settings and film simulation. So how can you see what the sensor sees before this conversion?

Natural Live View on/off shows change in exposure

Natural Live View #

Turning Natural Live View ON disables the visual effects of in-camera JPG processing. This includes film simulation, white balance, shadow/highlight adjustments. Now the image you see is in the viewfinder and LCD is much closer to the raw output.

Preview Pic. Effect

On older Fujifilm cameras, Natural Live View is equal to Preview Pic. Effect. So to help you accurately Expose to the Right you should turn Preview Pic. Effect OFF.

Choose OFF to preview the effects of film simulation, white balance, and other settings in the monitor, ON to make shadows in low-contrast, back-lit scenes and other hard-to-see subjects more visible. If ON is selected, the effects of camera settings will not be visible in the monitor and colors and tone will differ from those in the final picture.

Fujifilm: Description of Natural Live View in X-H1 manual

Live View Highlight Alert #

Live View Highlight Alert is also referred to as blinkies. This is because the overexposed areas flash black and white. This is a great way to identify clipped pixels. Combined with Natural Live View, this is now a more reliable method for checking exposure.

The RGB histogram #

The RGB histogram is useful checking single channel colour clipping. This is especially helpful in scenes with a dominant colours, such as sunsets. With Natural Live View ON, the histogram is a much closer representation of the raw exposure.

When using a black & white film simulation, the RGB histogram will not show if a single channel is clipping. This still applies if Natural Live View is ON. To view an accurate RGB histogram, use any colour film simulation

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Exposing to the right: step by step #

1. Exposure tools

  • Turn on Natural Live View.
  • Turn on Live View Highlight Alert.
  • Assign RGB Histogram to a function button for quicker access.
  • Turn on PREVIEW EXP./WB IN MANUAL MODE

2. Set image quality to raw

Optimum exposure for your sensor isn't the same thing as a "proper" exposure that looks right to your eye. ETTR images require you to redistribute the tones you recorded in post-production. Doing this with a compressed 8-bit JPG isn't possible/recommended, so you have to shoot raw.

3. Base ISO

To achieve maximum dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio, set your sensor to its base ISO. This will likely be either ISO 200 (on older Fuji cameras) or ISO 160. ISO does not increase sensitivity, it amplifies the signal. This amplification therefore makes noise more noticeable. It also makes highlights clip sooner which reduces the dynamic range.

4. Increase exposure to clipping point

Examine the scene and decide what highlights you would like to preserve. Remember to ignore specular highlights. Increase exposure until Live View Highlight Alert kicks in. Then reduce exposure until blinkies disappear. Check the RGB histogram for single channel clipping. Remember to stay at base ISO and reduce your shutter speed or open your aperture.

If exposing manually, you need to enable exposure preview in SET UP > SCREEN SET-UP > PREVIEW EXP./WB IN MANUAL MODE > PREVIEW EXP./WB

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5. Edit the resulting image

ETTR produces an exposure which is optimal for the sensor but will likely not look "right" to your eye. So, you'll need to make some adjustments to your image.

Editing ETTR images #

Many raw editors apply a default tone curve to images when importing them. This transforms the raw linear data to a more natural looking non-linear distribution. Tone curves manipulate highlights and shadows, which can make the raw appear overexposed. Changing the default tone curve to linear, gives a much better idea of the tonal range captured.

As you can see from the image below, the default tone curve often causes ETTR images to appear over exposed. Viewing the same image with a 'Linear response' tone curve shows there is still information in the highlights. You can then choose how to reshape the tonal range. Whether globally reducing the exposure or targeting the shadows and highlights.

X‑H1 RAF file opened in Capture One Pro 12. Before image shows the default Auto’ curve applied. Highlight detail is seemingly overexposed. The after image shows Capture One’s Linear Response’ curve applied.

Linear capture has important implications for exposure. If a camera captures six stops of dynamic range, half of the 4,096 levels (12 bit) are devoted to the brightest stop, half of the remainder (1,024 levels) are devoted to the next stop, half of the remainder (512 levels) are devoted to the next stop, and so on. The darkest stop, the extreme shadows, is represented by only 64 levels…

Adobe White Paper: Raw Capture, Linear Gamma, and Exposure

Visualisation of linear and non-linear distribution 6 stops of dynamic range.

Advantages of this method of ETTR #

You can toggle Natural Live View ON/OFF, meaning you can easily switch between exposing for raw and JPG. Toggle Natural Live View OFF and you see the effects of in-camera processing. This makes exposing your JPG's easy because what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). If you decide you would like to optimise your exposure for raw capture, you toggle Natural Live View ON. Exposure tools such as Live View Highlight Alert and the RGB histogram are now reliable for both JPG & raw.

Alternative methods of ETTR #

The spot meter method of ETTR

This method of ETTR entails spot-metering the brightest part of the image. You would then adjust exposure to achieve roughly three stops above middle grey. There are a few hurdles with this method though. It entails measuring your sensors highlight headroom, as outlined in this article. The spot meter isn't always accurate enough. It also takes time to meter the scene this way.

The UniWB method

Universal White balance (UniWB) is a method of approximating raw exposure. It takes some effort to setup and produces green JPEG images, which can be off-putting.

UniWB is a trick”. A camera set up to use UniWB is instructed to produce a distorted JPEG image. That JPEG will typically look horribly green when viewed on a display. However, the distorted image is specifically designed to produce a histogram whose right hand extremity closely matches that of a real RAW histogram.

Malcolm Hoar